Cochlear implants can be controversial – and many parents wonder if they are making the right choice on behalf of their baby or young child. In this piece, “T”, who received an implant as a teenager, tells his story.
Until I received my cochlear implant, I was blissfully unaware of the changes I would undergo in the five years since. There have been dramatic improvements in my quality of life with improvements in my hearing including the volume and intensity of sounds that seem so natural. I’m now able to distinguish and understand noises and other background noises.
I remember one experience on a short hill walk. There was a small stream trickling loudly into a ditch. I heard the water but didn’t know where it was until someone pointed it out to me. That was a revelation and I gained a new perspective of my improved hearing after my implant was turned on.
Undoubtedly the most important benefit of my cochlear implant is being able to understand speech with little or no lip reading. I can hear my voice and make distinctions between particular speech sounds. I can hear voices much clearer, which allows me to hold a conversation and socialise with people more smoothly and easily. The improvements in my speech have been no less than dramatic, indeed many have commented how good my speech is, as nigh on “perfect”.
In secondary school, I wore a hearing aid with a radio for class which was problematic at the best of times with fiddly pieces, and crackly hearing. I had numerous problems with the hearing aid radio system. So when I received a radio system (for my cochlear implant) that allowed me to hear my teachers easier, cutting out background noise and making concentration in class much easier. The rest of my time in secondary school became much easier and I had less of a workload. Beforehand I would have been studying more so I wouldn’t fall behind as a result of missing or not understanding something important in class.
My social interactions have become effortless and not caught up in silly misunderstandings that were awkward and discomforting. It has enabled me to carry conversations with good confidence and poise that I am being understood. As a result I have become more open and rarely think twice about talking to people afraid that I would be misunderstood.
Most importantly the cochlear implant has given me more options and routes throughout life. It has undoubtedly improved my career and job prospects after I finish university. I now have much more freedom, independence and options to do the things I want to do in life.
Note: This is one perspective, from one person. Everyone’s experience of deafness is different – the same applies to recipients of cochlear implants.